in Family history

The Garner Link

An unnamed church at Stretton in Shropshire from 'Good Words 1863'

An unnamed church at Stretton in Shropshire from a lady’s magazine of the early 19th century.

John Garner was born probably in Shropshire in 1633 and possibly baptised at St Chad’s in Ludlow.  Since I have only recently heard of John Garner, I am taking this on faith from other researchers.  Even a cursory google search shows a lot of discussion and a lot of research, so I was able to read through the various forums, read all presented evidence and quickly see what is confirmed and what is speculated.

John grew up in a time period without many records, and at a time where different parts of England and Wales were experiencing different circumstances.   However, according to research he emigrated to Henrico County in Virginia at quite a young age.  There seems to be some dispute over his parentage but many researchers list his parents as Richard Garner and Katharn Layce.  I do wonder if Katharn Layce might be Catherine Lacy, which is a much more likely Shropshire name – but I don’t know.  I guess I’ll be researching this.

It appears this family of Richard, Kath and John emigrated to Virginia when John was aged three, then the father died leaving John Garner an orphan.  He then became a ward of William Farrer.

I’m sure all Garner descendants in the United States know his history much better than I do, but I seem to hold an interesting clue that none of them have.  He is connected to one of my son’s ancestors and my son has two ancestors whose trail leads back to Shropshire.  I don’t think the MRCA can be much earlier than John himself and I think his grandfather is quite likely.  If John was 3 when he emigrated, he was not leaving any illegitimate children.  He may have left siblings in which case MRCA would be Richard and Kath (if they are the correct parents).  Otherwise, we are looking back to a parent of Richard (suggested John Garner and Joan Underwood) or a parent of Kath (no suggestions but birthplace Wales).

Salop in the 17th Century had more civilisation than one might expect from reading more recent descriptions.  It was the chosen holiday spot of some royalty and many wealthy families had property there.  It was a place steeped in history, many of its towns were referenced in the Domesday Book and its churches were large and stately.   The final stronghold of Caractacus could be pointed out, the monasteries formerly occupied by various orders, and the important houses and churches were full of relics of times gone by.  The families of Salop seem to have valued their past, perhaps used it to bolster their own importance.

James Ayers Junior's house in Launceston

James Ayers Junior’s house in Launceston Tasmania – his mother Sarah Harley was born in Shropshire

John Harley born 1776 lived in Church Stretton, Ludlow. I have found him in the 1841 census living with Henry Harley who was aged about 25 and I think must be a grandson.  The 1841 census does not give many clues.  John was a pauper and a widower.

Also in the household were Elizabeth aged 20 and Dina aged 7.  My first thought was that Dina was the daughter of Henry and Elizabeth, but it turns out that Dinah was the daughter of John and Ann and her baptism exists.  What I don’t know is whether John born 1776 was Dinah’s father, or maybe grandfather.  It seems logical that he might have a son called John and Dinah was his daughter.

I learned about the family through Hannah Harley born 1810 in Stratton who was transported to Van Diemen’s Land in 1844.  Hannah left a daughter behind, our Sarah born 1837.  Where Sarah was in 1844 is a mystery but she certainly did not come across with her mother.  In fact, Hannah said nothing about Sarah when she arrived which is one reason we took so long to make the connection.  Most convict women made the most of infant daughters to attempt to reduce their sentence. I still wonder what more we have yet to learn about this family.  All Hannah stated was that she had a father called John still living and a sister called Dinah.  Whether Dinah born 1834 was Hannah’s sister or niece is not known.

Once in Van Diemen’s Land, Hannah served out her sentence and married William Lee.  As Mrs Hannah Lee, she sponsored Sarah’s immigration.  Sarah arrived under name Sarah Lee in 1861.  Her mother must have been ill as she died of heart disease three years later in 1864.  Sarah then married James Ayers Senior in 1865, her name on the marriage record is Sarah Harley.  One of the witnesses is Mary Lee, Sarah’s younger half sister.

There are further mysteries here since no children have been found for the couple between 1865 and 1874.  After 1874 they had several, at the usual rate of a child every two years.  It’s a puzzle. For any child where the father was the informant, Sarah’s name is given as Sarah Lee.  Where Sarah herself informed the birth, it is given as Sarah Harley.  It took a lot of record hunting to work this out.

Hannah’s convict status was well hidden.  This family did not want it known.  This looks like the influence of her daughter in law to me.  Kathleen was the second wife of James Ayers Junior and came from a very good family.  One of her ancestors, James Poole, was also from Shropshire.

Home of Major James Poole and his family in Herefordshire

Home of Major James Poole and his family in Herefordshire – James was born in Shropshire

James Poole born 1746 was possibly the only son of the Reverend Edward Poole of Caynham, Shropshire, and Mary, his mystery wife.  He had six sisters. He went into the military and in 1771 married Ann Bennett of Somersetshire. He became a Major and was for a while the paymaster for military troops in Ireland.

At first he and Ann lived at Mordiford in Herefordshire, but after the births of their six children they moved to Herefordshire to the property of Hennor.  This was in the 1790s and Hennor House remained in the family until the early 20th Century.

James’ father, the Reverend Edward Poole lived most of his life in Shropshire. His parentage is uncertain.  Most websites have his parents as James Poole and Ann Jauncey, which may be correct, but there are a few odd features if so.  Some connection to this family is certain.  The Reverend Edward is undoubtedly a near relative, but whether a son or a nephew I’m not yet sure.  I would like to learn more about his wife Mary.  She brought a dowry of one thousand pounds which is pretty good for circa 1740, but I have not found a marriage or any hint about her maiden name.  It may be that she was a Jauncey.  The Reverend Edward’s will references Jauncey heirlooms which he holds, but since his wife predeceased him they may have been hers.

One of the above families – the Harley family or the Poole family – are most likely connected to John Garner.  The research continues.

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  1. My son recently made our family connection to the Garner family in Shropshire, specifically through Richard, Joan, and John Garner. Any additional background of prior family members would be great. Ronald L. Garner